Purple slip to first U-17 loss
Kilkenny Amber 3-17 Wexford Purple 1-10
In their biggest game in the group stages, Wexford Purple didn't show their true selves as they slipped to a surprisingly comprehensive defeat to Kilkenny Amber in Thomastown on Thursday.
All previous indications suggested that this would be a close-run contest. Despite a disappointing campaign, Wexford Gold were able to keep their game tight with the Cats and at the very least the boys in purple were expected to do similar.
However, they just never hit their stride. They looked inhibited, leggy and not as confident as in previous outings. Was there some fear? Maybe more of the occasion than the opposition, as with top spot on the line, Wexford stood off a little too much and Kilkenny prospered.
The hosts were classy, both in their score-taking and in their superb defensive work. They haven't been walloping teams in the way Wexford Purple have, and they didn't need to. Instead, they did their talking when it mattered most, in the game to decide top spot in Group D.
It was 0-3 to 0-2 to the hosts after nine minutes and Wexford had two nice scores on the board from Kevin O'Donohoe and Ben Stafford. Then, the first goal pretty much summed up the game, as David O'Connell strode away untouched to net and he could have added another moments later had Ben Walsh not made an excellent stop.
It was still nip and tuck heading into the latter stages of the half. Seán O'Connor (two) and Conall Clancy were both on target for Wexford, leaving a goal between the neighbours until Paddy Doyle cut in from the left to net in the 26th minute.
Cathal Doyle and O'Donohoe did add late points to leave four between the sides at the break (2-5 to 0-7), although it would have been better had O'Connor's 29th-minute net-rippler not been ruled out for a borderline square ball.
A fast start to the second period would have been useful for the Slaneysiders but they didn't get it. Instead, Dylan Carey, nephew of D.J., opening the scoring and looked on a few minutes later as O'Connell got in for his second major.
Wexford Purple managed just four scores in the second-half. The goal came with seven minutes left and was actually really well worked. Sam Audsley's long ball found James Lawlor who took defenders out of the game, handpassed into Seán Delaney's path, and the Gorey lad pulled to the net.
It left Wexford 3-14 to 1-9 behind and while they attempted to add further majors, Kilkenny held strong in the closing stages, took top spot in the table and secured themselves a trip to the highest bracket in the knockout stages, starting June 10.
Wexford Purple: Ben Walsh; Sam Audsley, Eoin Doyle, Cillian Gahan; Micheál Gahan, Conall O Crualaoich, Ben Stafford (0-1); Liam Coleman, Seán Delaney (1-1, 0-1 free); Michael O'Connor, James Lawlor, Kevin O'Donohoe (0-2); Cathal Doyle (capt., 0-2), Seán O'Connor (0-3), Conall Clancy (0-1). Subs. - Diarmuid Kehoe for Coleman (18), Patrick O'Hagan for Audsley (26), Conor Nolan for Clancy (31), Peter Rowley for C. Gahan (36), Audsley for O Crualaoich (37), Coleman for O'Donohoe (43), Clancy for Doyle (49), Doyle for Nolan (55).
Kilkenny Amber: Seán Minogue; Rory Breen, Cathal Holland, David Blanchfield; Darragh Hartley, Robert Doheny; Martin O'Connell; Fergus Byrne, Danny Coyne; Jake Dwyer (0-4, 3 frees), Declan Duggan (capt., 0-2), Paddy Doyle (1-1); Robbie Fitzgerald, David O'Connell (2-1), Shane Maher. Subs. - Stephen Donnelly (0-1) for Maher (19), Oisín Murphy for Blanchfield (31), Seán Phelan for Breen (31), Josh Dowling for Byrne (31), Danny Corcoran (0-1) for Coyne (31), Dylan Carey (0-5, 3 frees) for Fitzgerald (31), Aaron Okoroh (0-2) for Doyle (36), Michael Power for Dwyer (40).
Referee: Eamonn Larkin (Kilkenny).